How to Prepare for a Phone Screen Interview


Now that your resume has caught the attention of a recruiter, they’d like to schedule a brief phone screening. But what exactly does a phone screen interview entail, and what can a job candidate expect? 

What is a phone screening interview?

A phone screening is a type of job interview – typically the first round – conducted to “screen” a candidate and determine if they are a good fit for the job. A phone screen typically lasts 30 minutes or less as it’s an initial introduction and interview. The phone screen is the candidate’s first opportunity to really “sell” themselves as the best candidate. The recruiter or employee conducting the phone screening determines if the candidate should be invited for an in-person interview with upper-management, and ultimately helps the candidate land the job they’ve been searching for!

We talked with our seasoned Haystack recruiters to get their thoughts on phone screening interviews and how job candidates can best prepare, before, during, and after.

Before the phone interview:

Review the recruiter’s LinkedIn profile. This will help you gain a more complete understanding of their background. You may discover that you have something in common with the recruiter. Noting a commonality during a phone interview creates a connection and shows that you did a bit of research.

Review the company’s website. Have an understanding of the mission, values, and vision. Ideally, these will align with your values as well. It’s key to demonstrate your interest in the position and the company as a whole. You don’t need to know every little detail, but it’s good to have a base knowledge.

Prepare for specific questions. Review your personal work history and critical projects. A phone screening helps determine your skillset and personality. Jot down some of the activities you’d like to highlight during the conversation and tie them back to the job description. Also, keep in mind that there are key questions the recruiter is looking to have answered during the phone screening. 

Pick a location that has good reception. Ensure there is little-to-no background noise and a low chance for interruptions. 

During the phone interview:

Answer the call with “Hi, this is [your name] speaking.” Kicking off the call with your name is a polite and professional way to begin the conversation. This introduction can also verify the recruiter has the correct person. Stating your name can also indicate how to pronounce your name or let the recruiter know you go by a nickname.

Actively listen. You want to ensure you hear the entire question before responding. After listening to the full question, feel free to rephrase or restate the question before leading into your response. Not only will this prove to the recruiter that you are invested in the conversation, it will also give you a little more time to craft a thoughtful answer. If you’re unsure whether you answered the question thoroughly, it’s ok to ask if you’ve addressed the question correctly. By practicing active listening, your ears could help you land the job.

Ask questions. The phone interview is not only time for the recruiter to determine if you’re a good fit for the job, it is also an opportunity for you to figure out if the job is the right fit for you. By asking questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of the company, job duties, and company culture. While asking questions and responding, be yourself. The recruiter ultimately wants to get a sense of who you are, so let your personality shine through.

Following the Interview: 

Send a follow-up email. Sending a quick note to your recruiter shortly after the phone screening (at least within 24 hours) is polite and best practice for any interview. Thank them for their time, even if you didn’t feel like you were the perfect fit for the job following the phone screening, let the recruiter know. If you fished the phone screening and felt even more excited about the position and company, express that in your follow up email. Make sure to include a few key points discussed during the call. This email is also an opportunity to mention any information regarding your qualifications you didn’t have a chance to say during the phone screening.

Reflect on the conversation and questions. Jot down any crucial points or follow-up questions you have in the event you’re invited for either a video interview or in-person interview in the next round.

Good luck and happy interviewing!

Stay tuned for our next blog on our top 10 tips for video interviews.